April 24, 1970
— In early April, when Fleetwood Mac returned to London after an emotional European tour, Peter Green, devastated by drugs, suddenly announced he would be leaving the group in late May. Clifford Davis, the band’s manager, reluctantly began cancelling an upcoming British tour set to begin the following month. Relationships in the stunned band were strained, but the Mac still had to complete recording “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)”, Peter’s final studio effort with them, as well as a B-side for the single. To underscore the troubled band relationships, Jeremy Spencer opted out of these sessions to work on his own album.
Despite the high tension, the recording sessions at De Lane Lea Studios in London, driven by the intense music, still had their moments. Mick set up his new gong, surrounded by six microphones and miles of cables, in the underground car park below the studio. When Mick banged his gong, that car park vibrated like a giant bell with an eerie ringing that reverberated off the walls. Talk about an echo! Another night, Carlos Santana showed up, and it didn’t take long for a lengthy jam session to start. In the past, Peter often hit upon brilliant melodic ideas in the midst of jams like these, and on this night, he was showing Santana some pretty impressive licks. At some point, Peter had introduced Santana to “Black Magic Woman”, the hit that Carlos would record shortly thereafter for his own band’s second album. Throughout the sessions, Clifford did his best to convince Peter to stay, but Greenie steadfastly maintained his intention to leave, seemingly happier now that his decision was public.
We finished recording on April 20th and headed to Scotland for gigs in Dundee, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh. The crowds, aware that Peter was leaving, were huge and ebullient, and Chris Adamson and I spent more time being security guards than working the stage. We were both concerned about the recent turn of events that had begun with Peter’s drug use in Germany. Peter was very fragile, yet his guitar-playing was powerful and evocative during these Scottish gigs. Still the band’s musical leader, Peter had decided to go back to the two-song set list format: Peter would perform two songs, followed by Danny Kirwan’s two songs, followed by Jeremy’s two songs. Everyone was happy with that set-up, and the shows were quite good, despite any tensions that remained when the band came off stage.
On Friday, April 24th, we returned to play a gig at the Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road in North London, part of a Pop Proms series that began with Traffic on the previous Monday and Elton John on Tuesday. Chris convinced me to add more cabinets to our WEM system, knowing that fans and press would be out in full force to see Peter. Charlie Watkins, my mentor and grand old man of British sound reinforcement, obliged us with the extra gear. Originally a steam engine turning shed dating back to Victorian times, the Roundhouse became an arts venue in 1964. Although it has undergone extensive architectural transformations since then, back in 1970 it was still funky. The interior of the circular building was unique with a high, arching dome ceiling. I was excited, as I knew this reflector would be great for our sound. For the Mac, a stage was built at one end with no seats on the floor. Mick’s eyes lit up when he saw the balcony walkway that circled the building.
A year earlier, the band had played with B.B. King at the Royal Albert Hall, the first show of a British tour with the blues giant who had brought a backing band with him. Attended by England’s rock royalty—Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger—as well as Janis Joplin and her band, the concert was a blues aficionado’s dream. Flamboyant Long John Baldry was the master of ceremonies; Duster Bennett and Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry were the openers. For this important show, I had added extra sound equipment, including a pair of bright red, parabolic speakers that resembled breasts for vocals. After the show, Mick Jagger stopped me backstage.
“I loved those giant tits on the organ!” he exclaimed, thinking they were stage props. When I explained that they were speakers, he started laughing. Mick Fleetwood, who was standing behind me, quipped, “All we need now is a huge, blow-up dick!”
Although Fleetwood had been promising the band the inflatable stage prop since the Albert Hall show, no one had seen it and everyone had forgotten about it. Not Fleetwood, especially when he saw the walkway at the Roundhouse. Unbeknownst to the rest of the band, he had cajoled Jagger into loaning him an inflatable penis, complete with testicles, for this performance.